A New Zealand man has been jailed for almost two years for sharing a video of the Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 51 people.
Philip Neville Arps, 44, was sentenced in Christchurch District Court on Tuesday to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to two charges of distributing objectionable material, his lawyer Anselm Williams confirmed to CNN.
Arps sent copies of the footage — which was streamed live on March 15 by the mosque shooter — to about 30 people soon after attacks on worshippers inside two Christchurch mosques, according to CNN affiliate Radio New Zealand.
Shortly after the attack, New Zealand’s Office of Film and Literature classified the video as objectionable, making it an offense to possess, share or host it. Under New Zealand law, distributing objectionable material to another person carries a possible prison sentence of up to 14 years.
During sentencing on Tuesday, Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that when Arps was asked for his opinion on the video, he described it as “awesome,” RNZ reported.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” Judge O’Driscoll said, according to the RNZ report. “It is clear from all the material before me that you have strong and unrepentant views towards the Muslim community.”
Williams said that his client Arps filed an appeal Tuesday against his sentence, arguing that it is “too stern.” A date to hear the appeal has not yet been set.
Arps owns an insulation company named Beneficial Insulation, which uses a Nazi logo that was also featured in an online document published by the alleged Christchurch shooter.
Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old accused of carrying out the March 15 attacks, is expected to stand trial next year after pleading not guilty earlier this month to 51 counts of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act, the first time such a charge has been laid inside the country.
An 18-year-old and a 16-year-old have also been charged over distributing the live steam of the Christchurch videos, according to Williams, who is also representing the teens.
Limiting hate speech
Following the March 15 attacks, politicians and Muslim New Zealanders have raised concerns about the level of hate speech allowed to circulate online.
In May, the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern worked alongside French President Emmanuel Macron to host the Christchurch Call for Action, encouraging tech companies and countries to work together to end the use of social media in acts of terrorism.
The country’s Justice Minister Andrew Little announced in March that he would fast-track a review of the country’s hate speech laws, which could see the country introduce a new legal offense against hate crimes.
Currently hate speech is covered by two New Zealand laws — the Human Rights Act and the Harmful Digital Communications Act. However, Little said there were questions about whether the processes under the second act were as accessible as they needed to be, and noted that discrimination on the basis of religion isn’t covered by the first act.
“If your hateful expressions and hateful actions are directed at somebody’s religion, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination other than race then actually it doesn’t cover that, there’s no offense at that point,” he told RNZ.